I never liked shopping. My mother did. The sizing in the clothes burned my eyes and the fashion my mother was interested in was far away from my sense of who I was becoming at the time. My sister told the story that once she had gone shopping with Mom and remembered Mom leaning against the door of J.C. Penny’s dramatically pausing and taking a long breath, then saying to my sister, “OK. Let’s go and have fun.” My sister didn’t like shopping either. Perhaps it was the era. In the 60s and 70s there was the world to change. Shopping for clothes did not seem the right use of one’s energy. Besides, our clothes made political statements and came from used clothing stores.
Today I took my mother shopping in a mall just a few blocks from the retirement home she lives in now. She was totally into the experience, feeling the textures of the materials, the shape of the necklines, weighing the colors. The way she went through the clothes on the rack was experienced, rapidly flipping through the items, stopping at ones that caught her eye. She insisted we try on the few items she had selected. A bit tricky (or perhaps a longer more complicated process) for someone in a wheel chair and with Parkinson’s. In the dressing room at TJ Max, I helped her stand to see how she looked in these potential tops and then she posed, turned right and left to look at the clothes from each angle. She mentioned what other clothing she owned that would look good with what she was modeling. There was a shadow of her former younger self, a kind of old habitual choreography that seemed practiced and totally connected to her body memory.
Today I finally gave my mother the gift of shopping together. It was playful and filled with imagination and fantasy. We were both totally present. We discussed prices and sexiness and how much weight we were both putting on. I realized that this shopping experience was a lot different from our excursions to J.C. Penny’s or Lion Store fifty years ago. Yes, of course, it was about being together, but it was more about participating in an activity that had everything to do with agency and power in the world, something my mother hasn’t been able to exercise in a long time. I finally got it. And so did she.